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BASIC ENGLISH SKILLS


PARTS OF SPEECH

(Part 1)

CULI

2011

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Basic Sentence Skills (1)


Words are the building bricks of language. Without them there would be no language, and grammar would not be necessary. When we attended junior school, we learned that there were different types of words and that they did different jobs. For instance, there were words which we used to name things (like car), words which we used to describe things (like soft), and action words (like jump). We also learned that sentences were made from words, and that there were rules about how the words could fit together.

In English, there are nine jobs (or functions) for words to do. Put another way, we say that there are nine parts of speech. Each word in a sentence can be classified as doing a specific job, or having a specific function. However, not every sentence or series of words contains all the parts of speech (this would be unusual). Furthermore, some parts of speech appear to be more complicated than others, because they contain more words and/or more rules. The nine parts of speech follow:

Parts of Speech
nouns pronouns verbs adjectives adverbs prepositions conjunctions determiners interjections

Of course, being able to recognize these parts of speech and to understand how they work can help you to improve your English.

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This handout has been compiled in order to help you to improve your English. At university, you will be graded on your ability to use English, and you should possess an English-English dictionary. You should also consider purchasing an English grammar book.

If you are unsure about the classification of an individual word as a part of speech, a dictionary (or an e-dictionary) can help. When you find the word you want, it will be followed by its classification, or type. For example, if we look for cat, it will be shown as cat, n. or cat (n.) which shows, in this case, that cat is a noun. Alternatively, there are many internet websites which show English words and English grammar if you use Google (or other popular search engines) to help you with your search.

It is important to note that many words cannot be placed within a single classification. For instance, the word light can act as noun, verb or adjective: The light in the bedroom was turned off. Dont light your cigarette in the petrol station. You may take light bags onto the aeroplane. Can you see the different ways in which we used the word light ?

Nouns
A noun is a name of a place, an object, a person, an animal, a job, or even a concept which we have in our minds. Nouns are naming words. Places Objects Persons Animals Jobs Concepts town Thailand street home London heaven Sheraton tree chair car cloud ball microscope star engine Einstein Somchai Susan Jackson Peter Smith Tony duck pig elephant spider amoeba dog doctor teacher soldier policeman waitress intelligence beauty direction combustion biology

Why do some nouns always start with a capital letter?

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In the dictionary, there are more nouns than all the other parts of speech put together. That is why, when learning English or other foreign languages, we build a vocabulary which initially consists mainly of nouns (man, car, sun, girl, food, leg, teacher etc.) and then we learn other words and grammar rules a bit later. Also, we can watch babies learning, and we know that, in addition to words like me, they point to and name the things that they can see or touch (car, doll, etc.) before they acquire more complex vocabulary.

A noun can be common or proper. Common nouns are general naming words and are only capitalized when they come at the beginning of a sentence. Proper nouns name particular people, places, or things. Proper nouns are always capitalized.
common proper common

My cousin Marie Williams is a wonderful administrator. A noun can be concrete or abstract. Concrete nouns refer to objects that can be seen or touched, like table, boy or bus. Abstract nouns name a concept, quality or idea. They are usually common nouns. Intelligence is a concept or quality. We cannot see or touch it.
concrete concrete abstract

The student admired the teacher because of his knowledge.

Self-study/Homework There is a lot more to know about nouns. Find out some other things about nouns, and be ready to discuss these in class, with examples: What are countable and uncountable nouns? Plural nouns and the different ways we form them. Compound nouns. What types are there? How nouns become possessive. What is a collective noun? What is a mass noun?

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Pronouns
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun or a noun phrase (which is a group of words having a noun as its key word or identifying word). This is the pronouns only job, but it is a large job which contains many smaller jobs or different tasks, because there are many types of pronouns. So, a pronoun is a word which acts in place of a noun. We often use pronouns to refer to something already mentioned. They can save you from repeating the same nouns over and over again, which would appear or sound very awkward if you chose to do it. Here, we use pronouns effectively: Katrina rode the giant rollercoaster three times. It roared down the steep dips and scared her as it hurled around the curves. Pronouns are very common, but the most common of all are personal pronouns. You will almost always use one or more whenever you speak. I is such a pronoun. You use it instead of saying John Smith (your name) or the person who is here and is speaking now. You is also a personal pronoun, and there are many others. You probably know them: he, she, it, him, his, we, us, they, themare some of the personal pronouns. Pronouns can be put into groups or categories. personal possessive demonstrative indefinite interrogative relative intensive and reflexive reciprocal

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Personal pronouns refer to specific people or things. Singular subject I you she he it object me you her him it Plural subject we you they object us you them

Subject and object pronouns are fairly easy. In a basic sentence form, the subject is the doer of the action, the verb is the action word and the object is the receiver of the action (or the thing that is affected). subject My mother She My brothers They verb loves loves ate ate object my father. him. the cakes. them.

Possessive pronouns are also personal pronouns, but they show

ownership. The personal possessive pronouns are shown in bold type below: Singular I you she he it me you her him it my, mine your, yours her, hers his its Plural we you they us you them our, ours your, yours their, theirs

Note that the first type of possessive pronoun (my, your, their, etc) is used before a noun: This is my pen . (Some grammar books call this a possessive adjective.) Our house is new.

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The second type is used without a noun: This is mine. Or without a noun being next to it: This pen is mine. That new house is ours. Ours is new.

(Some grammar books say that this form is a true possessive pronoun. Remember also that we cannot say mine pen.) We can use different pronouns, or more than one, in a sentence:
personal possessive(s)

She forgot to post our letters. Is this pen yours or mine?

Self study/Homework Find out when we use its and when we use its. What is the difference?

Demonstrative pronouns point out persons, places, or things. The most common demonstrative pronouns are this, that, these, and those. We often use them to point to things or show things. This and these refer to things which are near us. That and those refer to things that are further away: This is the book that I lost over ten years ago. That is the train which goes to Paris. These are the shoes I bought. Those must be yours.

Note: Demonstrative adjectives are sometimes confused with demonstrative pronouns. They are used in the same way, to point to or show things near or further away, but note the position of the noun. Adjectives describe or modify nouns: This book is the one I lost over ten years ago. (adjective)

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Indefinite pronouns, like demonstrative pronouns, point out persons or things, but less clearly. The most common indefinite pronouns are: all another both no one each either everyone anybody few many neither nothing none one other someone several some everybody something (etc)

(no one=two words) Everyone felt that the concert had been a great success. Note: There are many words in this group. Some of these words can precede a noun to give us information about the noun (e.g. Many people.). In these cases, the word is a determiner rather than a pronoun. Furthermore, if one of these words is followed by of + pronoun (e.g. Both of them), it is classed as a distributive pronoun. Dont worry too much about these technical terms. What is more important is that the pronoun agrees with its antecedent (what it represents) or with other parts of the sentence. Look: Each one of us has problems. (not have) One of us has to work. (not have) Quick! Someone is coming. (not are) Why is everybody so fed up today? (not are) Either is correct. (not are) Few of the players are likely to attend today. (not is) As we can see, many of these pronouns are singular and require a singular verb form, although several, many, few and both are plural.

Interrogative pronouns are used when asking questions. Interrogative pronouns include who, whom, what, which, and whose. Who will take me to the party? To whom did you give the ring? What is your name? Which of the two movies was the best? Whose is that old jacket?

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These are all direct questions, and require question marks. Sometimes, this type of pronoun is used in indirect questions, which do not have a question mark: The policeman wanted to know who had seen the crash. Note: If the wh- word immediately precedes a noun (e.g. Which movie was the best?), then we call it an interrogative adjective if we want to be very correct. In either case, we use whatin sentences where there is a range or large number of possible answers (e.g. What was he talking about?) and whichwhere the choice or range of answers is limited (e.g. There were five cars. Which car did he buy?) For simplicity, some students prefer to call these words wh- words (even though how is normally included) or question words. Some of these words are really adverbs, and some of them are also used as linking words to join up sentences or parts of a sentence (The woman who lives next door is a doctor), as we shall see below. However, the whwords are very important, and you need to know them. Dont forget that why, where and when are also important as wh- or question words. Dont worry too much about learning technical words which are used when trying to describe or understand grammar. What is more important is that you know the basic types of words (verbs, pronouns, adjectives etc.) and what they do. Even more important is that you practise and use the words, even if you occasionally make mistakes.

Self study/Homework What is the difference between whose and whos?

Relative pronouns function as connecting words or sentence-joining words as we mentioned above. Notice that some of the same words used as interrogative pronouns are also used as relative pronouns, although the two are used for different functions. Relative pronouns include that, which, who, whom, and whose. We use them to join sentences where one sentence tells us more about the other sentence or supports it: Ive got a friend. He collects old cars. Ive got a friend who collects old cars.

However, there are a number of rules to study, and we shall return to this type of pronoun in a later handout which looks at sentence structure.

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Intensive (or intensifying) and reflexive pronouns are personal pronouns that end in self or -selves. Intensive pronouns refer to a noun or other pronouns to give emphasis. Reflexive pronouns refer to the subject. Common intensive and reflexive pronouns are myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves. I made the pizza myself. (intensivemeaning: I did it without any help) My mother bought herself a new dress. (reflexivemeaning: She bought it for her own use) Robert doesnt take care of himself. (reflexivemeaning: Robert doesnt look after his health and appearance)

Reciprocal pronouns. This is the smallest group of pronouns as it contains only two: each other and one another. Each other is used to convey a two-way relationship. Those two students are constantly talking to each other.

One another is usually used when more than two people are involved, as in: The women of the village looked after one another during the war. Some grammar books allow either reciprocal pronoun to be used regardless of whether two or more than two people are involved.

Verbs
All sentences have a verb. If a series of words contains no verb, then it is not truly a sentence. Verbs, as you know, are doing words or action words (run, hit, drive, eat), but some verbs show a state of being (seem, appear, know, like). These are known as stative verbs rather than action verbs: To many foreigners, Bangkok seems hot and noisy.

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Action verbs often have a time boundary: the action takes place once or has an obvious beginning and end (I hit the ball into the net). Stative (or state) verbs refer to a longer or unspecified time period (I like my teacher very much). One important difference is that we do not usually use a stative verb in the present continuous tense (sometimes called present progressive tense). Look at the examples: Im driving my car. Im liking McDonalds burgers.

One of these is not grammatically correct. Which one? Why not?

Another way of classifying verbs is according to their ability to be followed by a direct object in the sentence. Some verbs must be followed by another, object part of a sentence, in order to make the sentence complete. Verbs which need to be followed by an object (which receives the action) in this way are called transitive verbs. Verbs which do not need to be followed by an object are called intransitive. This is not as complex as it appears when we look at the examples here: The verb cut is transitive. We cannot say (I cut what?) I cut her hair. Some verbs do not need to take an object. These verbs are intransitive. The children laughed. (This sentence is fine as it stands) In English, many verbs can be transitive or intransitive. All of the types of verbs described above are known as main verbs, although there is another important category called auxiliary verbs. We can describe these as helping verbs, and the main ones are do, be and have. These little helping verbs are extremely important, as they are used with main verbs to form specific tenses and are also used for negatives and questions: I cut without adding more information

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Examples:

I have seen the Great Wall of China. (present perfect tense) She isnt finished yet. (negative) Do you eat fish? (question)

There is another category of auxiliary (helping) verbs called modals or modal auxiliary verbs. They help the main verb to express a range of meanings or functions: ability, obligation, possibility and quite a few more.

Examples: I could swim when I was two years old. (ability) You must arrive at the interview before 10.30. (obligation) That old box might break if you drop it. (possibility) There a quite a few rules to learn about modals, and you will study them again later on.

VERB TENSES Verbs possess tense in order to help us express the TIME that the action takes place (i.e. when it happens). English, like French, Spanish, German and many other languages, uses tenses, and there are 12 tenses in English. Some languages, including Thai, do not have tenses, and the time when the action occurs is understood from the rest of the sentence. When we start to look at tenses, we can say that something takes place in the present, the past or the future. Examples: He is listening to the CD. (present time) My uncle died last year. (past time) Madonna will arrive next week. (future time)

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Within each time category there are different tenses, and each tense has a different job to do. The tenses are very important in English, because they tell us whether something has already happened, is happening now, will happen in future, happens regularly, and so on. When we communicate with other people, such information is often vital, for obvious reasons. To list and explain all of the tenses would take up many pages, and it is not our intention to study them here.

REGULAR AND IRREGULAR VERBS There are many thousands of regular verbs in English. These verbs follow the same rules when we change their forms to indicate time (tense). However, there are also around 250-300 irregular verbs which follow different or unexpected rules. This sounds like a lot, although some of them are not used a great deal. However, some of them are used all of the time. The verb BE is the most common verb of all, and it is also said to be the most irregular. Am, is, are, was, were, etc. are forms of the verb be. Most grammar books contain a list of the irregular verbs. Also, you may remember learning them at school, often by repeating in class: run ran run hit hit hit drive drove driven (etc.)

Self study/Homework Have a look at the three verb parts above (example: run ran run). What are the three parts shown, and how are they used? If we took a regular verb, like to paint, how would these three parts appear?

PHRASAL VERBS There are many of these, and they are especially common in spoken English. They are formed by a main verb followed by a little word (or particle) which is a preposition or adverb like up or off. However, the two words combined can give a completely different meaning to the original meaning of the verb alone. There are no easy rules, and you have to learn the meanings! Here is an example. to hang: suspend something or someone using rope or hooks (etc.)

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but-to hang up: end a telephone conversation by replacing the receiver --We started to argue so she hung up on me. to hang about: wait idly, spend time doing nothing --He spends every day hanging about in the shopping mall. to hang on: wait --Hang on, Ill be there in two minutes.

Adjectives
Adjectives are words that describe or modify nouns (and pronouns). There are many of them, and you will know some already: a fat man the young dog some noisy children Is she angry? An adjective is usually found before the noun that it modifies: The old lady made delicious food. However, it may be located after this noun if a form of the verb be (or some other stative verbs like appear, seem, etc.) are used. Most books describe this form of adjective as a complement. The old ladys food was delicious. More rarely, an adjective is found immediately following a noun or pronoun: The people concerned should call the police. I want to try something new.

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Most descriptive (describing) adjectives also have a comparative and superlative form: fat fatter -er fattest and est pattern. We cannot say the

although not all of them follow this beautifullest.

Many adjectives combine with prepositions in fixed ways to form familiar phrases: good at afraid of married to She is good at maths. (not in) Bob was afraid of dogs. (not at) She is married to David Beckham. (not with)

Self study/Homework Find and list three more fixed adjectivepreposition combinations: 1. Interested in 2. 3.

Use your grammar book or the internet to find out about the correct order (sequence) of adjectives when we string them together. Revise the following: A Japanese pink plastic old doll = An ____ ____ ____ ____ doll

Adverbs
An adverb is a word that describes or modifies a verb, although it can also modify an adjective or another adverb, a preposition or a conjunction. There are many adverbs, and this is a large group of words to study. However, the most common function of an adverb is to modify the main verb of a sentence (ad-verb), which usually changes the whole meaning of the sentence: My aunt The bus arrived yesterday. (Modifies verb) travelled slowly. (Modifies verb)

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More examples: The young man serenaded his girlfriend beautifully. (Modifies verb) The extremely loud music reminded me of parties in the 1970s. (Modifies adjective) Older people often drive very slowly. (Modifies another adverb) Adverbs are commonly defined by the types of questions they answer about the verbs they modify. The most common adverbs are: Adverbs of manner Adverbs of time Adverbs of place (answer how?) He spoke softly. (answer when?) They left the police station later. (answer where?) I want to go upstairs.

Adverbs of frequency are also very common, and these tell us how often or regularly something happens: always, usually, sometimes, rarely, never, occasionally (etc.) We always go to Hua Hin in April. I go to the cinema occasionally. John rarely eats fruit.

Adverbs of duration are also common, and tell us whether an event is continuing, stopping or not happening: still, yet, already, any more (etc.) Is it still raining? Has he passed his exams yet? I have already finished my homework.

There are several other types of adverbs as well, and some very common words like too, really and tomorrow are often regarded as adverbs.

Prepositions
These are words like in, on, to, at and before. Most often, they show how two parts of a sentence are related in space and time:

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He lives

in

London.

The cat is on the table. Julie drove to the supermarket. We can meet at 5 oclock. before Wednesday. Give me the homework

During 1998, cold air from Alaska and warm air from El Nino combined and caused heavy storms in many states.
(shows mixed time and space prepositions)

Note: Prepositions (pre-positions) are most often used before the words they modify (e.g.in London) At times, a preposition is used alone at the end of a sentence, but it should add meaning to the sentence. Acceptable: Better: Which hotel did you stay in? Where do you live?

Unnecessary: Where do you live at?

Conjunctions
A conjunction joins words, parts of a sentence or more than one sentence with another. It is a linking or joining word, and this is its only job. There are many conjunctions, and they are used all of the time. The word and is a conjunction, and it is the third most commonly used word in English after the and of. There are two main types of conjunction: coordinating and subordinating. Coordinating conjunctions join words or sentences of equal importance or status: fish and chips She plays the piano and the guitar.

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In these examples, each half of the unit or sentence consists of equally important information. The main coordinating conjunctions are and, but, or, nor, yet, so.

Sometimes, we use pairs of conjunctions together in a sentence to join ideas that are related but equally important. These are called correlative conjunctions, and there are several common pairs which work together e.g. Either you go or I go! Both Chula and Mahidol have medical schools. Subordinating conjunctions link parts of sentences which are unequal, often where there is a main idea or statement followed by a second part which gives supporting information (tells us more about the main idea) but which is less important. The supporting part is subordinate (or dependent), like a junior partner. They were late because their car broke down. In this sentence, the main point is that they were late. That is a fact. The reason why they were late is useful to know, but it is not as important. Also, if we turn the sentence around, the role of the subordinating conjunction remains the same: Because their car broke down, they were late. There are many subordinating conjunctions, and they include after, although, as, as if, as soon as, because, how, if, since, so that, than, unless, when, whether, while and why. Hell be ill if he eats all that pork. If he eats all that pork, hell be ill.

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DETERMINERS
Determiners form a large group of words which give information about nouns but are function words rather than describing words. They are normally quite short words which, if we write them alone, do not mean a lot (a, an and the are determiners, but are also known as articles). Adjectives like beautiful are describing words, but determiners only perform a function in the sentence. If we see the word beautiful, we know what it means (it has content), but if we see the alone, we think the? the what? But then, when we pair it with a noun (the teacher), we can see that a determiner has a useful and very common function in specifying or telling us about something. The main determiners apart from the (the most commonly used word in English) and a/an are: Numbers (one, two, three.first, second, third) Demonstratives (this, that, these, those) Possessives (my, your, mine, yours, theirs etc.) Indefinite determiners (all, any, some, no, few, several, each, every, either, and many more) Determiners help us to indicate quantity (some wine), indicate position or choose (that wine), ask questions (whose wine?), show possession (my wine), and expression emotion (what wine!). Numbers are determiners (the first half of the match). Actually, words in other categories are often listed under determiners, just as many other words may be found listed as adverbs. We have seen that the important group of words called articles is listed within the larger category of determiners. If we look above, we see that some of the categories in the list have been studied earlier (e.g. possessive pronouns, demonstrative adjectives), but we can also list them under determiners.

Self study/Homework Use a grammar book to check the rules about using articles (the, a/an) and make notes for discussion in class. What is the ZERO article? Find out about it.

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INTERJECTIONS
The final part of speech is very small and is made up of words or short expressions which do not really belong in any other category. They are not verbs, pronouns, adverbs or anything else. Interjections are exclamatory words which we use to add force and meaning to speaking and writing: Hey! Shhhh! Oh! Wow! Cheers! Damn! and many more

They express emotion, displeasure, surprise, excitement etc. Hey! That food tastes terrible. Sometimes we use interjections to interrupt people (Shhhh!). We may also use them softly without an exclamation mark (!): Ah-ha, thats better.

Compiled by Ajarn Paul Vogel (CULI) 2008. Revised 2010. With grateful thanks to Gordon Jarvie and the late Graham King.